Reading Habits of Teen Boys

One of the senior literature program consultants from Glencoe/McGraw-Hill, the leading provider of print and digital educational materials for middle and secondary students, recently studied adolescent boys and their reading, attitudes, aspirations, and the opportunities available to them to increase literacy.

The goal of Jeffrey Wilhelm, Ph.D., in launching the study was to find ways to support students who are often considered to be reluctant or resistant to reading. He discovered that as students go through school they are expected to read more challenging text, but receive less support for reading that text.

Dr. Wilhelm is an award-winning author, researcher, and university professor. He served as a school language arts teacher for 13 years, and published such books as Reading Don't Fix No Chevys: Literacy in the Lives of Young Men and You Gotta BE the Book: Teaching Engaged and Reflective Reading with Adolescents.

During the interviews, almost every boy described himself as "not a reader." Dr. Wilhelm discovered just the opposite, he saw male adolescents reading comic books, magazines, and Web sites. The students thought they were non-readers because they accepted the school definition of a reader as a reader of traditional types of literature.

"In addition to introducing students to classic literature, there should also be an introduction to the types of literature that appeal to adolescents," Dr. Wilhelm said. "I noticed that many of the boys in our study didn't want to only read books off a list. They wanted to read material that mattered to them, material with a functional value that is in the here and now."

Dr. Wilhelm also found that many adolescent students view the literature taught in class as not relevant to their lives and because of that many teen students became cynical about reading. While Dr. Wilhelm supports teaching classic literature in class, he challenges teachers to make the literature relevant and come alive in the classroom.

"If a teacher can relate a piece a literature to what is happening in a student's life, the student will be engaged," he said.

Dr. Wilhelm's experience working with teen boys as well his knowledge of best practices in reaching all students are put to use in his co-authorship of Glencoe Literature: California Treasures, an all-new program for Grades 6-12 for California aligned with both California's language arts content and English language development standards.

For more information about Glencoe Literature: California Treasures, visit